Florida starting quarterback Feleipe Franks suffered a season-ending ankle injury in the third quarter against the Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday. When Franks was carried off the field in the second half, the Gators were down 21-10 to the Wildcats, and Kentucky looked firmly in control of the game.
Gators head coach Dan Mullen turned to redshirt junior backup quarterback Kyle Trask to run Florida’s offense, and the fourth-year junior rallied the Gators’ offense.
Trask completed his first four passes of the game and pitched the ball to running back Lamical Perine at the goal line and watched Perine run it in for a score on Trask’s first possession as Florida’s quarterback. Later in the game, Trask himself would score on the ground, scoring the go-ahead rushing touchdown with just over four minutes to go in the game.
Florida would go on to win 29-21 over the Wildcats, and Trask’s guidance on offense was a big reason why.
Trask finished 9-of-13 for 126 yards through the air, and his lone run was for four yards and a touchdown. Mullen said after the game that he thought about rotating in Trask and redshirt freshman Emory Jones at quarterback, but he held off on doing so because Trask was playing so well.
Mullen was asked on Monday during his weekly press conference how much he envisions Florida’s offense changing without Franks at the helm. The Gators’ second-year year head coach says he doesn’t really anticipate “a whole lot” of change on offense, but he does expect to send out both quarterbacks this Saturday when the Vols come to town.
“I expect us to play both guys,” Mullen said of Trask and Jones. “I think they both bring something a little different to the table, not just in running plays but in how they run certain plays. They got a little bit of a different weapon. You went from having two experienced backups to two inexperienced starters, so we’ve gotta get those guys in the game and get the reps and get them comfortable.
“But every time both have been in a game, they’ve both performed at a high level for us.”
Saturday’s win over Kentucky marked only the second time in Trask’s Florida career that he played extensively in a game. The first time came last season when Mullen pulled Franks in the third quarter of Florida’s match-up with Missouri. Trask was given a chance to play, and he immediately led the Gators on a 75-yard scoring drive.
But that would be the only traction the offense could really get the rest of the game, and the Tigers beat Florida 38-17. Trask finished 10-of-18 for 126 yards and a touchdown against Missouri.
Jones has never had to come into the middle of a conference game to try and lead Florida to victory, but he was used in specialized packages as a true freshman last season, and he flashed his potential in his limited role.
As a true freshman in 2018, Jones appeared in four games and was able to redshirt. In those four games, he totaled 41 rushing yards on 18 carries. The only game he attempted any passes in was against Idaho, where he came in and completed 12 of his 16 attempts for 125 yards and two touchdowns. The other games he played in were against Charleston Southern, Georgia, and Michigan.
This year, the former four-star has only played in one of Florida’s three games to start the year. The redshirt freshman saw some action against UT-Martin in the Gators’ second game of the season, completing one of his four pass attempts for two yards and running for 31 yards and a touchdown on four carries.
Neither Trask nor Jones have ever started a game in college. Mullen said on Monday that Trask will more than likely get the start at QB, but he jokingly added that he’s willing to change that if Trask looks too nervous.
“If (Trask) looks nervous, we’ll let Emory play the first play,” Mullen jokingly said. “(Trask) can go in the second play, then he didn’t officially start.”
This is far from the first time Florida has run a two-quarterback system on offense, and it’s not the first time Mullen himself has run a two-quarterback offense while with the Gators.
Back in 2006, Dan Mullen was Florida’s offensive coordinator under head coach Urban Meyer. That season, the Gators ran a dual-quarterback system with Chris Leak and Tim Tebow. Leak was a senior and started for Florida, and Tebow was a true freshman. While Leak was the primary passer, Tebow operated as a battering ram on running plays and occasionally passed the ball.
The two-quarterback system worked exceptionally well for the Gators that year, as the Leak/Tebow combo helped lead Florida to a national title that season. Leak completed 63.6 percent of his 365 pass attempts for 2,942 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions that season while Tebow ran for 469 yards and eight touchdowns on 89 attempts and tossed five touchdowns and only one interception while completing 22 of his 33 pass attempts.
When asked if he sees this year’s quarterback situation being like that 2006 team, Mullen said it “could be” and added that Jones — a redshirt freshman — is further along than Tebow was as a true freshman in 2006.
“Could be. We’ll see,” Mullen said. “Emory is much further along than Tim would’ve been in ’06. Each guy brings a little bit different issue to the defense, but it crosses over a lot too. I think that’ll be kinda fun for us offensively to put it all together.”
Trask, a redshirt junior, is the more experienced passer like Leak while Jones appears to be more of a threat on the ground like Tebow.
The biggest difference between that 2006 Florida team and the 2019 Florida team is that Leak was a multi-year starter prior to his senior season. Trask has never started, and he’s only appeared in five games total as a Gator.
Mullen also added that he “might” have both Trask and Jones on the field at the same time moving forward, which is something he and Meyer did with Leak and Tebow in 2006 as well.
Just how effective both Trask and Jones will be at running Florida’s offense on Saturday remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain: Tennessee will likely see plenty of both quarterbacks when they take on the Gators this Saturday.